Dear Young Moms — any moms who have not yet entered the “school years” stage of parenthood… I want to begin by saying how we, the middle moms, remember being in your place.
We are cheering you on and we enjoy being your friend… although we might not do it very well, practically. When I was a young mom up to my elbows in little people, I couldn’t understand why my friends with school age children had such a hard time, well, being my friend.
Text messages go unanswered for days. Getting together with them for play dates or coffee dates was nearly impossible. My friends would complain the laundry was piling up. Or how they couldn’t remember the last time they spent a Saturday at home with no plans. In my limited perspective not only did I not understand, but I envied their lives from a distance. Their days no longer consisted of bottles, diapers, or spit-up.
But as with every season of motherhood, I’ve come find school-aged kids come with their own set of hard. Now that my kids are all in school, I’ve gained a little perspective, and I’m right there in the middle now, feeling guilt that I’m not a present friend to my young mom friends.
Survival Mode vs. Fighting for Margin
Dear moms of littles, I know your life feels so full and tiring. Keeping your tiny people alive and happy are your priorities. Not to mention caring for yourself. You see moms of older kids and think “it has to be so much easier.” Perhaps you even long for those years to approach quickly.
If I might offer some insight, while you may often feel the survival mode struggle, we middle moms are fighting for margin.
Before the school age years hit, there are no sports uniforms to keep track of or clean. No permission slips to turn in. Parent-teacher conferences, informational meetings for teams or committees, school concert practices and performances don’t yet pack the calendar. You don’t yet deal with your kids’ sass, begging, or arguing over homework, screentime, or spending time with friends. Not to mention trying to find time to feed your own creativity or marriage or personal life.
“Fight for margin” has become my new motto, and I’ve had many school-aged kids mom friends nod in agreement when I stake my claim on margin. So when a Saturday pops up with no plans, or we have a snow day, or other unexpected free days, please forgive us if we guard it like a newborn child during flu season. We aren’t trying to be anti-social or rude… we are simply striving to not live life in burn-out mode.
Middle Moms are Seeking Balance
While the school age years are filled with growth, discovery, and new found independence, so much of it feels like a balancing act that you will never get right.
Someone will always be disappointed. We are finding the words “No, I’m sorry I/we can’t” have become more frequent in our vocabulary. Yes, we are sleeping through the night (mostly), our kids can get their own snacks, and use the bathroom unassisted. But we parents of school-aged kids are still exhausted. Navigating our kids’ worlds, the calendar, our culture, as well as pouring into our kids and our marriages as well as balancing outside activities can feel daunting. Many days, everything leaves us feeling as though we are barely keeping our heads above water.
So moms of littles, please be patient with your friends who are middle moms. We want so much to be there for you and encourage you. We know your days and nights are long and filled with “baby shark” lyrics. Your living room might look like a yard sale with clothes and toys everywhere.
Just because we are not good at returning texts or we have to schedule play dates/coffee dates 2 weeks in advance does not mean we don’t value your friendship. We are fighting for margin and we know as our friends you want to help us fight, too.
Let’s Encourage Each Other
The little years might feel long, but they are, in fact, the shortest years your child will spend in a certain stage. Your kids will be school-aged children far longer than babies or toddlers. So next time you are at home on Tuesday with no plans and your life feels full of laundry, dishes, tears, and cuddles, remember… only a few short years away, you may long for a Tuesday at home with no place to be.
We moms in the middle are cheering you on you moms of littles, while we fight for margin in our own lives.
Moms in all seasons and life stages can and should encourage one another, even if we don’t fully understand the circumstances. Take the opportunity right now to text a mom friend in a different season of life and encourage her. Even if she doesn’t respond, be sure your words made an impact on her day.